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The Hum by Bob Doran


photo of Eric McFadden Trio

THE LAST TIME THE ERIC MCFADDEN TRIO [pictured above] came to town I took a quick look at McFadden's website, (without stopping to listen) saw that Eric plays guitar, mandolin and a hybrid banjotar, and misidentified them as a jam band. When the band's stand-up bassist James Whiton called the other day, I asked him how he would describe EMT. "Rock" he said without hesitation. "It's all-encompassing," Whiton says, elaborating. "Of course we don't get up there and play Rolling Stones songs; we've got our own thing, but it's rock."

He wasn't offended by the jam tag. "We have some associations in those circles `cause Eric plays with P-Funk, and our drummer plays for Les Claypool and Cake, but it's definitely more of a hard rock band. There is improv, so we get thrown in with the jam bands, and a lot of the fans of that style are into listening for musicianship and the interplay between musicians. We're all about those things. But those who are looking for a two-chord major vamp that they can twirl and dance around to, they get kind of scared by what we're doing." It is kind of dark, I tell him. "Very dark," he says in agreement. "Eric tends to look at the underworld and those darker feelings in his writing," he adds.

McFadden's role in P-Funk? "George Clinton saw him play and wanted to get him onstage, so he started off playing mandolin," Whiton explained. "He and I are like birds of a feather in that he runs the mando through distortion pedals and a synth pedal and through harmonizers and envelope filters. I do the same thing with my upright bass. We definitely get some otherworldly sounds going." Catch EMT Tuesday, Feb. 10, at Rumours.

The Wiyot Tribe continues its ongoing effort to buy back Indian Island in Humboldt Bay, a site sacred to the tribe, with the appropriately named Wiyot Sacred Site Fund Benefit Concert Saturday, Feb. 7 at the College of the Redwoods Gymnasium. The shows includes some heavyweights from the world of Native American performers: comedian Charlie Hill, (Did you catch him on Letterman in Jan.?), veteran folksinger Floyd Red Crow Westerman (also an actor and another face you see on TV a lot) and Keith Secola, who mixes various styles with the music of his own culture to create something he calls "Native Americana."

"I take roots of jazz, roots of reggae, roots of blues, country and folk and even now roots of hip hop and dance grooves, which all are part of the American landscape," he told me. "They interact with topics that are native and sometimes melodies that are close to traditional melodies. You might write a punk song about the inadequacies of the reservation system and there could be nothing traditional about it aside from the fact that it came from a native artist."

Keith knows Floyd well; they often play the same shows. "Floyd Westerman is kind of a folksinger. He made an album way back there, [Custer Died For Your Sins] long before Buffy Saint Marie. In fact he was one of my influences when I was first starting to play guitar. I remember hearing his music and thinking, there's something to shoot for. A few years later I was at the Univ. of Minn. And I got to play with him, I backed him up." That relationship continues; it's likely each will play in the other's set.

Local native performers filling out the 5-hour show include Soldier Blue, Sara Rose Wasson, Mélange and 7th Generation Rise. (7th Gen. also plays at Old Town Coffee Friday night.)

Also on Saturday, Feb. 7, at Dell'Arte, Humboldt Folklife Society presents Celtic harpist/storyteller Patrick Ball in a solo musical theater piece, The Fine Beauty of the Island, a semi-autobiographical kind of thing with Ball spinning a long yarn accompanied by his harp and pennywhistle.

You might remember a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting the loss of Sweetriver Saloon, inasmuch as it was the only place around offering comedy (on stage at least). Well, now Mazzotti's seems to be picking up the torch. Friday Feb. 6, they present Joe Sanfilippo opening for Rick Pulido. Across town at Muddy Waters, Speakeasy does different things with words, mixing poetry with jazz. And meanwhile out at the Placebo, it's yet another sort of wordplay as rappers Manifest, Weasel and Mensa El Aorch rhyme to beats laid down by Thanksgiving Brown and Brooklyn Science.

Friday is reggae icon Bob Marley's birthday. At Rumours that night a band called Rumours plays reggae. While the band is here from Vegas, most of the members are from the Caribbean; among them, Barrington Laurent, from St. Maarten. Saturday night the show moves to Eureka's Masonic Hall. Both nights are benefits for the BRAVA! Dancers who are planning a trip to Spain to further their study of flamenco. Why would a reggae band play for ballet dancers? The fact that Barrington is married to BRAVA! founder Virginia Niekrasz-Laurent might have something to do with it.

You could also stretch your Marley celebration to Sunday, Feb. 8, when Midnite hits Six Rivers McKinleyville. Again this is not pure Jamaican reggae; founders Ron "Gainde" Benjamin and his brother Vaughn hail from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, but they have that irie island sound. They're on the road with something called Green-Up Sound System.

Montana-based electronica/jam band Signal Path returns to Humboldt for a show at Mazzotti's Wednesday, Feb. 11, with local funksters Old Man Clemins opening and DJ Receiver spinning between sets. The band's keyboard player, Nathan, a New Orleans native, explained what goes into the electro-jam style. "We all have different musical backgrounds and tastes so it's taken a while to meld them. My background is in jazz, same with Dion the bass player. Damon is heavy on the funk and on intense playing. Ryan has an extensive rock background and Ben is into the ethno stuff and minimalist music. What we have in common is a love for electronic music and programmers."

There's music in a similar vein Wednesday night at the Blue Lake Casino: Lotus, a five-piece from Philadelphia offers what they call, "danceable landscapes" influenced by trance music, house and drum `n' bass but incorporating more ethnic textures: music from India, Africa and Latin America.

Looking for something more on the classical side? The Venice Baroque Orchestra plays that night at the Van Duzer focusing on Italian music of the 17th and 18th centuries and Italian Baroque opera.

Political singer/songwriter David Rovics sings his "songs of social significance" at several venues around the county next week. Sunday Feb. 8, he's at the Petrolia Community Center for another of those Friends of Paul Gallegos benefits. (Is anyone wondering when the Enemies of Paul will start their musical benefits? And who would play?) Wednesday, Feb. 11, Rovics plays a fundraiser for Democracy Unlimited; Thursday Feb. 12, he's at the Arcata Community Center, again for D.U. And speaking of democracy, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! says, "David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now! "


Bob Doran



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